Articles Posted in Employment Law

A 25-year-old New York state middle school teacher has filed a $3 million lawsuit against her former employer.

She says she was fired because of a topless photo she’d sent privately to someone she was dating.

A student somehow got hold of the photo and began circulating it, but she says that’s not her fault and that she shouldn’t be punished for it.

She is now suing the South Country School District for that amount in a gender discrimination lawsuit because she was fired over the selfie last week.

She said she texted the photo to her partner at the time, another teacher in the district, more than two years ago.

She has no idea how a student was able to get a copy and share it.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this case progresses and its outcome. The main argument here is that no man would ever be fired for exposing his chest in a photograph, so why should a woman be fired for the exact same thing? Treating women differently than men in the workplace is absolutely a form of gender discrimination. No woman, or man for that matter, has to put up with gender discrimination in the workplace. Our Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you seek financial compensation for wrongs you have experienced in the workplace.

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After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Crown Linen LLC – based in Orlando, Florida – will pay $60,863 in back wages to 15 employees for violations of the overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

WHD investigators found that the employer incorrectly considered two groups of employees as exempt from the overtime requirements as managers under the FLSA. This misapplication of the exemption resulted in the employer paying overtime-eligible employees flat weekly salaries with no regard to the number of hours they worked.

This practice resulted in violations when these employees worked more than 40 hours per week and were not paid overtime. Additionally, the employer paid other employees straight time instead of overtime when they worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

The employer also failed to maintain required records of the number of hours employees worked.

How your employer classifies you matters a tremendous deal to your income. If you have been lumped into a managerial position you will lose out on certain benefits that other workers receive, including overtime pay. The law is crystal clear about who should be tited a manager, so if you are worried that your employer has classified you as a manager in error, you may be entitled to financial compensation for back pay and overtime wages.

Our Orlando Employment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are committed to protecting the rights of employees. We can help determine if a misclassification has occurred in your case and explore your options going forward.

Under federal law, certain qualifications must be met in order for an employee to be considered a manager, including:

  • A guaranteed weekly salary of $455 per week
  • No pay reductions based on the quality or quantity of work in any given week
  • No pay deductions for normal business losses
  • Managers must be responsible for directing the work of at least two employees
  • Managers must be allowed to weigh in on hiring/firing decisions

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After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Paradise Villa Retirement Home Inc. – operator of five South Florida assisted living facilities – has paid $103,389 in back wages to 20 employees for violating minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

WHD investigators concluded that Paradise Villa Retirement Home Inc. inaccurately classified caregivers as independent contractors rather than employees and paid them flat rates per day without regard to the number of hours they actually worked.

This practice resulted in minimum wage violations when those flat rates failed to cover all the hours employees worked at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Overtime violations resulted when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek but were paid only their flat rates with no overtime.

WHD also cited recordkeeping violations when the employer failed to maintain records of the number of hours employees worked.

Misclassifying workers as independent contractors is a very common practice in the workplace. While illegal, some employees elect to engage in these wage theft practices to evade their responsibility to pay workers their legally required wages and benefits.

Is your employer violating your labor rights by misclassifying your job? If your employer is treating you like an independent contractor instead of an employee, our Florida Employment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton may be able to help.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Whittel & Melton secured an $80,000 settlement for a female bartender who was sexually harassed at an Italian restaurant in Orlando for over two years before being fired after complaining to the restaurant’s owner.

The bartender was regularly asked to go on dates, described to restaurant patrons as single and available to date them, subjected to sexual innuendo, and told to dress “sexy” and “date-ready,” among other things.

Under the settlement, the restaurant must conduct mandatory anti-harassment training for all employees and operate a telephone hotline for employees to report incidents of discrimination and harassment.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can affect both men and women, and may include some of the following actions:

  • Touching an employee or coworker inappropriately
  • Promising a raise or promotion in exchange for sexual or romantic activities
  • Engaging in uninvited “x-rated” conversations
  • Unwarranted provocative gestures

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience that not everyone is comfortable talking about. However, if you are experiencing such illegal behavior at work, you do not need to suffer in silence. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know that coming forward with a sexual harassment complaint is not easy. That is why we will be there for you and guide you through the legal process, so that the wrongdoer is held accountable for their unlawful behavior.

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Hundreds of Laser Spine Institute employees who were fired Friday after the company unexpectedly shut down have now filed a federal lawsuit.

Laser Spine Institute announced Friday their doors were closing, and patients had to find new doctors while former employees have to find new jobs.

So far there have been three federal lawsuits filed on behalf of former employees. One of the filings claims the company violated what’s called the WARN Act because they didn’t notify employees of what was happening until the day the company closed.

Under the WARN Act, employees who don’t receive advance notice of the layoff are entitled to 60 days wages and benefits.

Officials from the Laser Spine Institute sent out this statement in response to the lawsuits filed Monday.

“The sudden closing of Laser Spine Institute was an unfortunate and heartbreaking situation.  It’s possible that some employees may not have remembered all of the information that was shared on Friday.  Employees will be paid for the hours they’ve worked and their benefits will be extended according to our normal separation policy.

With respect to the WARN Act, the company’s position is that it’s fully complied with these obligations.  The WARN act notices that have been filed are on file with the state of Florida. Laser Spine Institute intends to defend itself against these allegations.”

The Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act requires that employers give employees 60 days advance written notice of a mass layoff or worksite closing. When employers fail to provide this notice, our Florida Employment Law Attorneys represent employees in class action litigation for damages in federal court.

Congress passed the WARN Act in 1988 to make sure employees receive advance notice of a mass layoff. Your rights under the WARN Act include:

  • The right to a 60 day notice
  • The right to recover wages and benefits
  • The right to receive adequate warning to look for and find a new job
  • The right to an explanation if you don’t receive 60 days notice

You still have rights if your company filed for bankruptcy. In fact, WARN Act claims are considerable and actually take priority over other creditors in bankruptcy court.

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El Grande Supermarket in Tampa will pay $198,039 in back pay and damages after demonstrating great diversity in ways of violating federal pay rules, the U.S. Department of Labor announced.

That money will go to 17 workers, each worker receiving an average of $11,649.35.

The supermarket run got caught with violations in:

▪ Minimum wage: The Department of Labor said El Grande paid one person a flat salary, then watched as that person worked so many hours, the hourly rate didn’t even reach the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

▪ Overtime: The store paid some overtime-eligible people straight time.

▪ Keeping track of pay: The store failed to record cash payments made to workers, and failed to maintain other required payroll records.

As an employee, you have the right to a fair wage as defined by state and federal law. You may also be entitled to overtime pay. If you are concerned that your employer is not paying you the correct amount, or refusing to pay you proper wages, our Tampa Unpaid Wage and Overtime Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help. Our firm assists employees throughout the Tampa Bay area enforce their right to a fair wage.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, Florida minimum wage is $8.46 an hour. Tipped workers should be paid $5.44 an hour. In regards to overtime pay, all Florida workers must be paid overtime pay of time and a half for any hours worked over 40 during a workweek.

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A White House security specialist has been suspended without pay for defying her supervisor Carl Kline, less than a week after NBC News reported Kline approved Jared Kushner for top secret clearance over the objections of career staff.

NBC News reported that the specialist had filed a discrimination complaint against Kline three months ago.

Her two-week suspension from the White House security office was for failure to supervise, failure to follow instructions and defiance of authority, according to the suspension decision notice obtained by NBC News. Security office chief Crede Bailey first proposed the suspension on Dec. 3, 2018.

The woman’s lawyer considers her a whistleblower and said he believes the administrative charges were brought as payback for her decision to file the complaint against Kline.

No employee should have to endure retaliation for illegal conduct in the workplace. Federal whistleblower retaliation laws prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action against employees, including termination, suspension, and harassment.

No matter the work related challenge you are faced with, our Whistleblower Retaliation Attorneys at Whittel & Melton will provide you with the legal knowledge and recommendations to address your specific situation. We are dedicated to resolving your concerns in the most efficient way possible.

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The former executive pastry chef at Mar-a-Lago is suing President Donald Trump’s private club and two senior managers claiming he was laid-off in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment against two female chefs.

The ex-chef, who worked at the club in Palm Beach from 2012 to 2017, reported to the club’s human resources department complaints he received from two young chefs who said they had been targets of sexual harassment, including lewd text messages, by two married, high-level food and beverage managers, according to the lawsuit.

Mar-a-Lago’s management looked into the ex-chef’s claims and he was interviewed as part of the investigation, which resulted in both managers receiving written reprimands and apologizing to the women, according to the lawsuit. About six months later, in October 2017, according to the suit, the managers who were reprimanded then laid him off, saying the club expected to lose $2.5 million from charity fundraisers that were canceled in the wake of the president’s comments about a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one woman dead.

The man, who has also filed a federal employment discrimination action against the club, did not believe their explanation, saying in his complaint that at the same time the club was hiring more foreign guest workers than it had the year before, including pastry chefs.

As for the lag time between the managers’ reprimand and the elimination of his position, the man said in his federal complaint that he believed they “waited sufficient time to cover their tracks, and then retaliated against me.”

Trump routinely receives visas to hire foreign workers as housekeepers, servers and kitchen staff at Mar-a-Lago, as do other area resorts and businesses. Trump received visas for 78 workers for the 2018-19 season, up from 70 workers in 2017-18, when the man was laid off. During the 2016-17 season, Trump hired 64 foreign workers at his Palm Beach club.

The Civil Rights Act protects all employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws also protect employees from retaliation. Retaliation often occurs when an employer punishes an employee for filing complaints regarding sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. There are various federal laws that protect against retaliation and establish the rights of “whistleblowers,” people who file complaints about unsafe workplaces.

In order to establish grounds for a lawsuit, retaliation must have a negative impact on your employment. If you have reason to believe that an employer, manager, or another person is retaliating against you in the workplace, our Florida Retaliation Claims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help. We can investigate your claim and help you learn whether retaliation is taking place. If you are indeed the victim of workplace retaliation, we will fight aggressively to obtain justice on your behalf.

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Employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against Baycare Health System Inc., a Florida hospital, citing alleged unpaid wages, retaliation and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act (FWCA).

A woman filed a complaint on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated on May 17, 2018, in the Pinellas Circuit Court against Baycare Health System Inc. alleging that it failed to compensate employees with proper wages and benefits.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the woman and other similarly situated individuals have suffered irreparable injury and monetary damages as a result of the defendant’s discriminatory practices of interfering with their rights to FMLA and to compensation at the statutory rate of one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for overtime hours worked.

The hospital allegedly failed to pay employees an overtime premium for all of the overtime hours that they worked, failed to accurately record, report, and/or preserve records of hours worked by its employees, and failed to offer employees FMLA or otherwise notify them of their rights under FMLA.

The plaintiffs request a trial by jury and seek judgment against defendant for compensation for lost wages, benefits and other remuneration, reinstatement to a prior position with back pay plus interest, pension rights and all benefits, front pay, liquidated damages, interest, costs, attorney’s fees, and further relief as the court may deem just.

Under FMLA, eligible employees may take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period, for any of four general reasons:

  1. Birth and care of a newborn child
  2. Adoption placement
  3. Care for an immediate family member (spouse, parent, or child) with a serious health condition
  4. Personal medical leave because the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition

There are further stipulations outlined under FMLA. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours during the twelve months immediately preceding the leave. Moreover, the employee must work at a site where there are at least fifty employees within seventy-five miles.

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Eliza Dushku was written off CBS’ “Bull” after she confronted the series star Michael Weatherly about his behavior, according to a new report in The New York Times.

CBS confirms it paid a secret $9.5 million settlement to an actress this year after she accused the star of the hit show “Bull” of harassment.

The Times said when Dushku appeared on “Bull” last year, there were “well-developed plans” to make her a full-time cast member, but those plans allegedly ended after she came forward with allegations against the show’s star.

Dushku played a lawyer alongside Weatherly for just three episodes in season one. Dushku was written off the show within days of confronting Weatherly about behavior that made her uncomfortable. Among the allegations: he told “a rape joke” and said in “front of the cast and crew” he “would bend her over his leg and spank her.”

In another alleged incident on set, Dushku held up three fingers during a scene. She allegedly told investigators, Weatherly suggested she wanted a threesome with him and another male cast member.

The network agreed this year to pay Dushku a confidential settlement of $9.5 million, roughly the amount she would have earned as a series regular. Eight months later, when CBS investigators approached her, she allegedly told them: “My story is true and it’s really affected me.”

In a statement, CBS said: “The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done.”

Celebrities and normal everyday people can be victims of sexual harassment at work. If you have or believe you have become the victim of sexual harassment in a Florida workplace, you do not have to simply ignore it and move on. Sexual harassment by coworkers, managers, or employers is illegal and you have legal recourse to right these wrongs.

Sometimes, sexual harassment cases involve inappropriate comments or gestures. Other times, the harassment can be much more serious. It may involve someone being fired for illegitimate reasons or worse, sexual assault and battery. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have successfully handled all of these and we know how each Florida statute applies to particular sets of circumstances that arise in these cases. We know how to build you the strongest possible case.

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